ABC - World News

shotbydave/iStockBy JULIA JACOBO, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- More than 38 billion tons of material were extracted from the Earth in 2017 for trade, a figure that shows how much the demand for raw resources has increased in recent decades, a new United Nations report has found.

The materials include biomass, such as wood and crops for food, energy and plant-based materials; fossil fuels, such as coal, natural gas and oil; metals, such as iron, aluminum and copper; and non-metallic minerals, such as sand, gravel and limestone, according to the report.

From 1970 to 2017, the amount of materials extracted from the Earth globally tripled, according to the report.

The volume of trade has increased at a faster pace than the volume of the extracted resources since the 1950s, which signifies how much the global economy relies on material trade, the report states. About one-third of the 101 tons of material extracted from the Earth annually are destined to produce goods for trade.

In addition, the process of using the raw materials -- including extraction, processing, use and disposal of material resources -- deeply affects the planet’s climate, according to the report.

Trade can be damaging to the environment by expanding overall resource production and use, shifting production to countries with less stringent environmental legislation and increasing energy use and pollution linked to transporting the goods.

Rising demand is being met by fewer producers, as several countries shift to becoming net importers with "very few" becoming net exporters, according to the report.

When accompanied by appropriate measures, like facilitating access to green technology and environmental goods and services, trade can enable and accelerate the transition to a greener, circular economy, the report states.

To protect the Earth, authors recommend implementing policies such as enhancing alignment between international trade and environmental legal frameworks, ensuring that trade agreements move toward a circular economy inclusive of developing countries and proactively using regional trade agreements to reduce demand for primary raw materials.

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mustafabilgesatkin/iStockBY: ALEEM AGHA AND CONOR FINNEGAN, ABC NEWS

(WASHINGTON) -- People in Kabul, Afghanistan, woke up to the sound of rockets fired by insurgents Saturday as families rushed toward schools to check on their children and loved ones.

The attack, which happened in a residential area during the morning rush hour, resulted in at least eight deaths and 31 wounded, according to Kabul police. Most rockets landed inside residential houses.

Saturday's attack reminded many people about the days of war between different warlords and the mujahideen factions in 1992, when seemingly every street in Kabul was controlled by warlords.

It also shows how fragile the political and security situation is in Kabul and all over Afghanistan.

Although the Taliban denied any involvement in Saturday's attack, the government intelligence agencies accused the terrorist organization for this and other recent attacks in Kabul and other parts of the country.

Many Afghans are worried about their future after the U.S. announced it would reduce the number of troops in the country to 2,500, which sends the wrong message to many of the Afghan public.

With violence from the Taliban increasing around the country at such a critical time, many hope for a presence of international forces who could militarily and politically force a peace agreement between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

Before Saturday's attack, the State Dept. confirmed that U.S. Secretary Mike Pompeo would meet the Taliban's political leadership in Doha, Qatar, Saturday, as well as the Afghan national negotiating team, chosen by the Afghan government.

The two sides have been stuck for nearly two months now arguing over the mechanisms for peace talks, including thorny issues like terminology or which school of Islamic jurisprudence to use for disputes.

As those talks roll on slowly, fighting on the battlefield has raged on, with U.S. airstrikes helping keep the Taliban at bay from retaking provincial capitals, as the Washington Post detailed .

An Afghan official told ABC News Thursday that the Afghan negotiating team "will not walk out of the table no matter how difficult working with the Taliban is. But there's no appetite for peace among Taliban. They know nothing but war."

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Vernon Yuen/NurPhoto via Getty ImagesBy BRITTYN CLENNETT, ABC News

(HONG KONG) -- Hundreds of revelers gathered at Hong Kong Disneyland on Friday to witness the opening of the resort's reimagined Castle of Magical Dreams.

The 167-foot-tall structure, nestled into the hills of Lantau Island, has been transformed over four years, more than doubling the height of the previous Sleeping Beauty Castle, itself a near-replica of Walt Disney's original castle in Anaheim, California. The previous castle can still be seen embedded at the base of the new structure.

It's made up of 15 modules that were made off-site, then craned onto the existing castle like a jigsaw puzzle.

The upgrade comes as Hong Kong Disneyland marks its 15th anniversary at a challenging time.

"The castle is the heart and soul of any given Disney Park," Kelly Willis, executive creative director of Walt Disney Imagineering who oversaw the transformation, said at the opening on Friday. "We wanted to transform the image of Hong Kong Disneyland to mark a new era of the resort."

"It's a symbol of courage, hope and possibility," Willis added.

The architecture is inspired by 13 stories of Disney princesses and queens. Each tower is dedicated to their iconic stories through color, patterns and symbolism.

"Living in Hong Kong, the city is made up of a rich fabric of diverse cultures from all around the world, and it's well known for its international character," Willis said. "The transformed castle is inspired by this notion and its rich diversity."

At the opening, a Disney super fan named Melissa, who told ABC News she visits the park every week when she can, said, "I'm feeling very proud of it because it's an exclusive design ... it's beautiful. "

Amid the pandemic, uncertainty remains over whether Hong Kong's version of the happiest place on earth will need to temporarily shut its doors to visitors once again. The resort had already been forced to close twice this year due to waves of coronavirus infections. It reopened for a second time in September. It now looks as though Hong Kong is being hit by another surge of cases, with more than 60 cases being reported on Friday. The city had reported close to zero cases for months.

Disney is the parent company of ABC News.

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Larina Marina/iStockBy JULIA JACOBO, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- A new report details the grim circumstances facing marine animals as millions of pounds of plastic continue to make their way into the oceans every year.

Nearly 1,800 animals from 40 different species swallowed or became entangled in plastic between 2009 and 2018, the report, by ocean conservation group Oceana, found. About 88% were animals listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act, including Hawaiian monk seals, Stellar sea lions, manatees and all six species of sea turtle found in the U.S.

The plastic was found to have affected the animals at all life stages, from recently hatched sea turtles to seal mothers with nursing pups. More than 800 animals listed in the report were sea turtles, and more than 900 were marine mammals.

Researches added that the numbers in the report are likely conservative estimates, as not every affected animal is reported.

The pieces of plastic chronicled in the report ranged from microplastics that perforated the gastrointestinal tract of a baby sea turtle to DVD cases and "huge plastic sheets" that had been swallowed by whales.

Plastic packing straps, bags, balloons with strings, and sheeting were the items most commonly reported.

The animals also came into contact with items such as zip ties, dental floss and mesh produce bags seen at grocery stores, Dr. Kimberly Warner, the author of the report and a senior scientist at Oceana, said in a statement. Other incidents involved items including bottle caps, water bottles, straws, buckets, plastic chairs, plastic forks, toothbrushes, children's toys, buckets, bubble wrap, sponges, swim goggles, plastic holiday grass, sandwich bags and polystyrene cups, the report said.

The animals often mistake plastic for food or swallow it while swimming or feeding, according to experts. After it's consumed, the plastic can lacerate their intestines or obstruct digestion, according to the report. When the plastic remains in an animal's stomach, they may believe they are full and not seek to eat, leading to starvation or death, scientists say.

In some cases, just one piece of ingested plastic may have been enough to contribute to an animal's death, like in the case of a pygmy sperm whale whose dead body was discovered in New Jersey with just one plastic bag in its stomach, according to the report.

And when entangled in plastic, some marine life can drown, choke or suffer physical trauma or amputation, which can then lead to infection, the report said.

In one case study, a Kemp's ridley sea turtle drowned after a plastic bag filled with sand wrapped around its neck, according to the study. Scientists believe the turtle drowned from the weight of the bag.

Scientists estimate that 15 million metric tons of plastic flow into the ocean every year -- the equivalent of about two garbage trucks' worth every minute, according to the report.

Plastic production is expected to quadruple in the coming decades, and the amount of plastic flowing into the oceans will triple by 2040 if nothing changes, Christy Leavitt, one of the report's coauthors, said in a statement.

Researchers complied the report by surveying dozens of governmental agencies, organizations and institutions that collect data on the impact of plastics on wildlife.

Stopping plastic from entering the ocean will take a combination of action by both government and big business, according to the researchers. To do so, not only must companies reduce the production of plastic, especially single-use plastic, but they must offer plastic-free choices to consumers. In addition, governments at all levels must pass policies to reduce the production of single-use plastics, and federal agencies tasked with protecting oceans and the species within them must require standardized reporting of all plastic interaction cases, the researchers said.

"The world is hooked on plastic because the industry continues to find increasingly more ways to force this persistent pollutant into our everyday routines -- and it's choking, strangling and drowning marine life," Warner said in a statement. "We can only expect these cases to increase as the industry continues to push single-use plastic into consumers' hands."

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Steve Parsons/PA Images via Getty ImagesBy KATIE KINDELAN, ABC News

(LONDON) -- Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip are marking their 73rd wedding anniversary with a gift from the next generation of royals, their great-grandchildren, Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis.

Buckingham Palace released a new photo Thursday showing the queen and Philip looking at an anniversary card made by 7-year-old George, 5-year-old Charlotte and 2-year-old Louis, the children of Prince William and Duchess Kate.

The photo was taken in the Oak Room at Windsor Castle earlier this week, according to Buckingham Palace.

The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh look at an anniversary card made by Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis, alongside other cards and letters sent by well-wishers to celebrate their 73rd wedding anniversary tomorrow.

📸 Chris Jackson/Getty images pic.twitter.com/RQzDWAwHSU

— The Royal Family (@RoyalFamily) November 19, 2020

Queen Elizabeth, 94, and Prince Philip, 99, were married on Nov. 20, 1947, in Westminster Abbey in London.

In the photo, the queen is wearing the Chrysanthemum Brooch, which she also wore on her honeymoon with Philip, according to Buckingham Palace.

Queen Elizabeth was a princess and the heir to the British throne at the time of her wedding to Philip, born Prince Philip of Greek and Denmark. The couple went on to have four children and now have eight grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

The queen and Philip, who retired from official royal duties in 2017, were last seen together in an official photograph released by Buckingham Palace in June to mark Philip's 99th birthday.

The couple has been staying primarily at Windsor Castle since March, arriving earlier than usual due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Queen Elizabeth stepped out in public for the first time since March last month, when she traveled to the Defense Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL), near Salisbury, in a rare joint appearance with her grandson, Prince William.

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Derek Brumby/iStockBy ABC News

(TEHRAN) -- A year has passed from nationwide protests in Iran and the resulting crackdown that came to be called "Bloody November."

Unrelenting pressure on local journalists and a lack of transparency among the nation's leadership have prevented an accurate tally of those killed and those wounded, but official statistics do acknowledge that hundreds died and thousands more were arrested.

The suppression of civil protests is unmatched in modern Iranian history, but many feel these events never received the attention they deserved.

Civil demonstrations were sparked in more than 200 cities, Fars News reported, initially as a reaction to authorities’ decision to hike fuel prices by as much as 300%.

According to Reuters, a death toll provided by three anonymous interior ministry officials was "about 1,500.” Amnesty International said at least 304 were killed in the first three days. Iran's minister of domestic affairs, Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli, confirmed a death toll of 200 to 225 while on live TV in May of this year.

Unlike another series of protests suppressed with violence -- in about 160 cities, from December 2017 into January 2018, mostly working-class individuals -- the November 2019 demonstrations included people from all walks of life. And the intense anger initially directed at increasing fuel prices quickly was turned toward government policy writ large -- especially alleged domestic corruption.

Ultimately, the protests dramatically undercut the reformist party's legitimacy.

The party long had been considered the only path for those among Iran's middle class to reach the top levels of national decision-making. With the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei installed as commander-in-chief, experts believed that the presidential position is seen more as the top rung of a bureaucratic ladder than someone responsible for implementing all chosen policies. Reformists, hoping to have their voices heard, voted for Hassan Rouhani for president first in 2013 and again in 2017 -- he'd promised more social freedom and better ties with other nations.

Rouhani’s team managed to sign a multilateral nuclear deal with six world powers -- Germany, France, U.K., Russia, China and the U.S. -- known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to limit Iran’s nuclear activities in return for lifting sanctions. But in May 2018, President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal, reinstating severe economic sanctions against Iran.

Besides Rouhani’s failure in fulfilling promises due to widespread domestic corruption and the crippling international sanctions, the fact that Iran's government, elected by the votes of the reformists, stood alongside the hardliners in last November's crackdown, irreparably damaged the dichotomy of conservatism and reform.

This was seen in Iran's most recent elections, in February, when reformist candidates took only 20 of 290 parliamentary seats after winning 120 in the previous election. Nationwide turnout was at a record low.

On social media, many users expressed pessimism of any possible changes via peaceful protest, saying they would no longer see any difference between the conservative “state” -- mostly known by the supreme leader on the top -- and the “government” led by an elected president.

“At the peak of the protests in December 2017 and November 2019, officials including reformists and conservatives said univocally that it is people’s right to protest and chaos is what we are against! They were supposed to allocate places for people to protest, but all that was a lie! Contrary to the constitution, the government does not consider the right to protest for the people,” Amir Hossein Mosalla, an Iranian journalist, wrote on Twitter on Sunday.

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Tim Rooke/Pool/Samir Hussein/WireImage By ZOE MAGEE, ABC News

(LONDON) -- Prince William has broken his silence on an investigation into a controversial interview with his mother, the late Princess Diana, that aired on the BBC more than 20 years ago.

The BBC announced this week it has appointed a retired judge to lead an independent investigation into the 1995 interview Diana did with journalist Martin Bashir.

“The independent investigation is a step in the right direction," William said in a statement. "It should help establish the truth behind the actions that led to the Panorama interview and subsequent decisions taken by those in the BBC at the time.”

The BBC launched its investigation after Diana’s brother, Charles Spencer, renewed his allegations this month that Bashir used fake information and false documents to convince Diana to agree to the interview.

More than 23 million people watched the interview that Bashir did with Diana, who would die just two years later, in August 1997, after a car crash in the Pont D’Alma Bridge in Paris.

Diana's comments about her marriage to Prince Charles and his alleged affair with his now wife, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, sent shock waves throughout the world -- and the royal family.

When Bashir asked Diana if she thought Camilla was "a factor" in the breakdown of her marriage to Charles, Diana famously replied, "Well, there were three of us in the marriage, so it was a bit crowded."

Diana and Charles, the parents of William and his younger brother Prince Harry, were divorced just one year after the interview aired in 1996.

Harry -- who stepped back from his senior role in the royal family earlier this year and now lives in California with his wife Duchess Meghan and their son Archie -- has not yet commented on the investigation or the allegations made by his uncle, Charles Spencer.

William and Harry were 15 and 12, respectively, when Diana died in 1997.

"William and Harry are keen to make sure that their mother's legacy is protected and that she is remembered faithfully for who she was," said Victoria Murphy, an ABC News royal contributor. "This interview was a huge moment in her life and I think [William's] statement shows that William is really keen that the facts around it are established for the record."

Bashir, who the BBC says is out on medical leave, has not responded to the investigation or Spencer's claims.

The investigation comes as Diana is back in the spotlight with the new season of The Crown, the hit Netflix show based on the royal family.

Season 4 of the fictional drama, which premiered on Sunday, introduces Lady Diana Spencer and highlights her marriage to Prince Charles and the subsequent fiery deterioration of their relationship.

The show also dives into Charles' relationship with Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, and has sparked concerns over the potential reputation damage it could do to the future king and his wife.

"There are real concerns coming from the palace that people watching Season 4 of The Crown will take it for gospel," ABC News royal contributor Omid Scobie said earlier this week. "Charles and Camilla are a couple that spent decades trying to repair their image and just at a time where they’ve gained popularity in the U.K., that all faces major risk."

The actress who plays Diana, Emma Corrin, said she can understand why people may be upset about her portrayal of the late princess.

"I understand why people would be upset because this is history. And even with Diana, it's still very much fresh, everything that happens," Corrin, 24, said during an appearance on the Tamron Hall Show. "So I do really understand if people would be upset."

"We approach these people that we play as characters, which is why it's such a joyous job because Peter writes such rich and complex characters," she added, referring to Peter Morgan, the creator of The Crown.

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omersukrugoksu/iStockBy MORGAN WINSOR, ABC News

(LONDON) -- Kenyan police have arrested at least three medical officers from a public hospital in Nairobi for their alleged involvement in a child trafficking ring.

"During an operation by police to unearth the organized crime, police officers noted with a lot of concern that local public hospitals and children homes within Nairobi are involved," Kenya’s Inspector General of Police Hilary Mutyambai said in a statement Wednesday. "In the course of the investigations and operations, it is unfortunate that it was realized senior medical officers in collusion with the child smugglers are highly involved."

Police have not yet released the names of the suspects, the exact charges they face or the name of the hospital where they work.

The arrests come after an explosive, yearlong investigation by BBC's Africa Eye revealed evidence of a thriving underground network of child trafficking syndicates in Nairobi -- from illegal street clinics to a major government-run hospital -- that snatch babies from vulnerable mothers to be sold on the black market for as little as $400. The documentary, titled The Baby Stealers, aired Monday.

Mutyambai said he has directed officers and other local security agencies across Kenya to immediately take action and investigate child trafficking within their areas of jurisdiction, especially in children’s homes as well as in local and private hospitals. He said there is a "high possibility" that more people will be arrested as their investigations continue.

BBC reported Thursday that four more people have been arrested, which would bring the total number in custody so far to seven. ABC News has reached out to Kenya's National Police Service for comment.

The BBC investigation noted that there are no reliable statistics on child trafficking in the East African nation, and that the agencies responsible for finding missing children and tracking the black market are both under-staffed and under-resourced.

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MivPiv/iStockBy BRUNO ROEBER, ALEEM AGHA and GUY DAVIES, ABC News

(KABUL and LONDON) -- Tuesday’s announcement that U.S. troop numbers in Afghanistan would be reduced from 4,500 to 2,500 by Jan. 15 by Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller, will fulfill President Trump’s plan to bring the two-decade war to a “successful and responsible conclusion, and to bring our brave Service members home.”

The conflict has cost thousands of American lives, and countless more Afghan casualties, yet in the country itself, in the cities and in diplomatic quarters, the withdrawal promises to herald yet more uncertainty with daily violence showing no signs of abating and the Taliban poised to capitalize on any reduction of American military presence.

Despite the Trump administration’s historic agreement signed at Doha with the militant group earlier this year, with the Taliban agreeing to reduce the levels of violence and cut ties with Al-Qaeda in exchange for a reduced American presence, the reality on the ground tells a very different tale. Near daily fighting between Afghan government forces and the Taliban have continued, all during the intra-Afghan dialogue over the past few months.

Just this past Tuesday, an attack attributed to the Taliban killed two officers and wounded another on a police patrol in Kabul as part of a strategy of intimidation that has seen the Taliban increasingly target government officials and journalists. The Taliban announced forgiveness for any government employees -- especially from security forces sectors -- that leave their job; if they want to live. If they don’t -- they will be targeted. According to sources in the Afghan government, the Taliban, despite their indications to the contrary, have not changed their policies towards human rights and women’s education and enfranchisement.

In an open letter on Nov. 13 prior to Miller’s announcements, several former U.S. ambassadors and officials warned that a “complete withdrawal” of American forces from Afghanistan would be an “impetuous, damaging, and risky course of action.”

“A complete but planned and orderly withdrawal (which we oppose outside the context of a peace agreement) would be damaging enough,” the signatories to the letter, including former ambassadors James Cunningham and Ronald E. Neumann, wrote. “The spectacle of US troops abandoning facilities and equipment, leaving the field in Afghanistan to the Taliban and ISIS, would be broadcast around the world as a symbol of US defeat and humiliation, and of victory for Islamist extremism.”

After 20 years of sacrifices and countless lives ruined and lost, the sense of betrayal is palpable.

“The international forces defeated Taliban [and] forced them out of the power,” Mohabat Khan, a street vegetable seller, told ABC News. “We celebrated their win [and] thought we will have good life but that didn’t happen. The same people who once fought each other [have] now become allies [and] made a political deal [that] forced our government to release their prisoners unconditional in return we will have cease fire that didn’t happen. I am sure Taliban will never keep their words and will not do anything they agreed to on a piece of paper. They are just fooling everyone by making fake promises.”

Fawad Stanikzai, a student of private university, said: "Americans didn’t respect the sacrifices not only [of the] Afghan people but the blood of their own soldiers who lost their lives pushing Taliban out of power. After 19 years they are basically handing over everything to them."

That trepidation is also felt by members of the Afghan government. "The decision complicates everything," an Afghan official told ABC News. "It emboldens the Taliban to take over the government, stall further the peace negotiations, and weakens the ANSF [Afghan National Security Forces] morale."

Yet, at home in the U.S., the policy of President-elect Biden may yet follow the same course as Trump’s withdrawal. Continuing talks between the Taliban and Afghan government have stalled for the time being, and while U.S. officials are hopeful of a breakthrough, the road ahead looks more uncertain than ever.

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Shany DrorBy GUY DAVIES, DRAGANA JOVANOVIC and MAGGIE RULLI, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Albert Einstein, Nikola Tesla and Isaac Newton -- these are all geniuses from history that have become household names, recognized for their intellectual brilliance and contributions to our shared understanding. It may seem fur-fetched that Squall, a Florida-born Border Collie, could join the ranks of those great thinkers, but at the Genius Dog Challenge, that might not be so im-paws-ible.

That’s because the challenge, the first of its kind, will pit Squall against fellow Border Collies Max, Nalani, Gaia, Rico and Whiskey, to see once and for all who will take the title of the "World’s Smartest Dog."

Every Wednesday until Dec. 16, the "Genius Dog Challenge" will be live-streamed on Facebook and YouTube as the dogs take part in a series of tasks to test their intelligence and memory. Due to coronavirus travel restrictions, however, the dogs will be competing in their homes around the world -- from Brazil and Florida to Spain, the Netherlands and Hungary.

Each week the dogs -- narrowed down to compete after an intensive search by organizers -- will learn the names of a number of new toys, and be tested how much they remember, in what scientists say is a challenge to help us understand the evolutionary origin of the human language. The challenge itself is the culmination of two-and-a-half years of research by scientists at ELTE University in Budapest, Hungary.

“It is part of a bigger research project aimed to improve our understanding of the human language and how dogs perceive it,” Shany Dror, a researcher at ELTE University who pioneered the event, told ABC News. “We are also interested in understanding what makes these dogs so unique and why they differ from other dogs. The deep friendship between humans and dogs is based on our ability to communicate with each other. This communication is possible due to the many similarities between the two species.”

For Bobbie, Squall’s owner, training dogs became a hobby during retirement, but her current Border Collie, unlike the other dog’s she’s trained, is a “genius.”

“Border Collies are smarter anyway,” she told ABC News. “They are of the herding group and herding dogs need to know what's going on all the time because they have to keep track of the herd. But you can tell that he's got something special. There's just something different about him.”

For the dog owners, the challenge is a fun learning opportunity which will allow them to further develop the deep bonds with their pets. For Dror, it has an altogether different significance.

“We think we have a good bond with our dog but in this research, we ask our dogs if they see it the ‎same way,” she said. “We think we understand our dogs, [but] in this research we ask if they also understand us.‎”

At the moment, the research is focused on the task of naming toys, but the scientists are hoping to carry out further studies into a range of tasks in the future, and in doing so may potentially unearth the first canine polymath, according to Dr. Claudia Fugazza, another scientist behind the project at ELTE University.

“This is what our research is trying to find out,” she told ABC News. "Just as Mozart was a genius for music, it does not mean that he was great in painting. There are many good musicians among humans, but Mozart was somehow different and this is something along these lines.”

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René Lorenz/iStockBy JULIA JACOBO, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Greenland is known as the largest contributor to rising sea levels but a new study explores how the island's glaciers could lose more ice than previously predicted.

The three largest glaciers, Jakobshavn Isbræ, Kangerlussuaq and Helheim, are responsible for about 12% of the entire ice sheet and hold enough ice to raise sea levels by around 1.3 meters, or about 4.3 feet, according to the study published Tuesday in Nature.

Together, the three glaciers have already contributed about 8.1 millimeters or .32 inches to global sea levels between 1880 and 2012, the authors of the study said. They used historical photographs to calculate the amount of ice lost during that time frame.

If drastic efforts are not made to cut global greenhouse gas emissions, climate change models predict that Earth's temperature will rise 3.7 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial revolution temperatures by the end of the century.

The world's surface temperature has increased a little more than 1 degrees Celsius since 1880, according to NASA. The goal of the Paris Agreement is to keep that rise below 2 degrees Celsius, but scientists have determined that the combination of pledges from each participating nation is still not enough to mitigate the rise in temperature.

The rate of ice loss in Greenland has increased over the past decade and models predict a further acceleration over the coming decades, according to the study. Jakobshavn Isbræ and Kangerlussuaq glaciers have gone through "periods of dynamic instability" and are sensitive to small fluctuations in atmosphere or ocean warming, the study said. Scientists expect them to continue to retreat and lose mass.

Globally, sea levels have risen an average of 17 centimeters or about 6.7 inches in the 20th century due to loss of land-based ice mass, thermal expansion of oceans and changes in terrestrial water storage, according to the study. That number could increase up to 2 meters or 6.56 feet by 2100.

Greenland's ice sheet is a major contributor to rising sea levels. The melting could eventually expose up to 400 million people to flooding by the end of the century, according to a study commissioned by NASA and the European Space Agency and published in Nature last year.

Warming events are becoming much more frequent, climate scientists told ABC News last year after unusual warming patterns caused the Greenland ice sheet to melt at near record rates. In September, a chunk of Greenland's ice cap measuring 42.3 square miles in the far northeastern Arctic broke off, which provided more evidence to scientists of the rapid rate at which Earth's temperature is rising.

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shaadjutt/iStockBY: JACK ARNHOLZ, ABC NEWS

(LONDON) — The European Union plummeted into political crisis Monday when two member states blocked its coronavirus recovery plan after objections over a provision conditioning economic aid on a country's respect for democratic norms.

The historic €750 billion (or $888 billion) relief package, part of the EU's overall $2.1 trillion budget, would disperse funds to the organization's 27 member states.

The vetoes issued by Hungary and Poland will prevent, at least for the time being, an infusion of economic stimulus into a continent struggling to contain the coronavirus amid its worst recession since World War II.

"We have already lost a lot of time in view of the second pandemic wave and the severe economic damage," said Germany's ambassador to the EU, Michael Clauss, who chaired Monday's meeting where Hungary and Poland vetoed the budget agreement, the BBC reported.

"It is crucial that the entire package is now adopted quickly, otherwise the EU will face a serious crisis," he added.

Over the past decade, Hungary and Poland have faced international scrutiny for political encroachment into their media and judiciary systems. Both countries remain under investigation by the EU for violating its established democratic norms.

Melissa Hooper, director of human rights and the civil society program at Human Rights First, told ABC News that it is not surprising that Poland and Hungary blocked a budget tied to a provision enshrining respect for rule of law.

"It's a messaging tool that they are trying to communicate to the EU, that they don't want the EU interfering with their internal proceedings or internal policymaking with respect to their judiciaries, in respect to the way they're treating media -- essentially their treatment of their own democratic institutions," she said.

Both member states set their clear opposition to the plan before Monday's vote on the budget with the spokesman to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, tweeting, "We cannot support the plan in its present form to tie rule of law criteria to budget decisions."

Poland called the democratic norms provision "an excuse" to give the EU government more power over the country's affairs. "It is really about institutional, political enslavement. For a radical limitation of sovereignty," Polish Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro said Monday at a press conference.

Despite Hungary's and Poland's vetoing of the EU budget, both countries significantly depend on the bloc's economic resources. The organization spends nearly $7.5 billion in Hungary, the equivalent of almost 5% of the nation's GDP. Poland receives over $19 billion from the EU, or nearly 3.5% of its GDP.

While EU member states are desperately in need of the organization's money to fund their COVID-19 recovery, many national leaders have stressed the importance of tying a respect for rule-of-law provision to the budget.

"Upholding the principles of the rule of law is an absolute necessity," Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said in a press conference following the vote.

Hooper also applauded the EU for conditioning economic aid on a rule-of-law provision to the budget, saying the organization has "lagged" in confronting Hungary and Poland over their alleged undermining of democratic norms.

"I think they should have done it a long time ago. I think that the way they're doing it is actually really smart because the way that it's supposed to function is that every country will have a rule of law review. This isn't supposed to be a punishment for those countries that are acting badly. It's supposed to be kind of like a health check," she told ABC News.

However, Hooper said that the United States and the outgoing Trump administration carried some responsibility in encouraging the current EU impasse.

"Essentially, what [Hungary and Poland] are saying with this veto is, 'We don't like the rule of law. If you're going to make sure that rule of law operates in our countries, we don't want to play,'" Hooper said.

"And I think that the U.S. government under the Trump administration has encouraged that stance, unfortunately, with personal relationships between the president and Orban and the president and the [Polish] government. And so unfortunately I think the U.S. can take some blame in encouraging this internal strife within the EU," she added.

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Pool/Samir Hussein/WireImageBy IVAN PEREIRA, ABC News

(LONDON) -- U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was hospitalized in the spring for the novel coronavirus, is self-isolating after he was exposed to a member of Parliament who contracted the virus, British officials announced Sunday.

Johnson met on Thursday with a group of members of Parliament that included Lee Anderson, who later tested positive, according to a spokesperson from Downing Street. The meeting lasted for 35 minutes, according to the spokesperson.

The National Health Service's Test and Trace team informed Johnson about Anderson's condition and instructed him to self-isolate, according to the spokesperson. Johnson is not showing any symptoms and is doing well, the spokesperson said in a statement.

"He will carry on working from Downing Street, including leading the Government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic," the statement said.

In April, Johnson contracted the virus and was hospitalized for nearly a week. He spent three days in the ICU.

The U.K. has 1,369,318 total coronavirus cases and 51,934 related fatalities, according to the British government. The seven-day average of new cases has risen dramatically since the beginning of September, going from 2,182 on Sept. 1 to 23,672 on Nov. 6, according to health data. On Nov. 2, Britain recorded a record number of new cases, 31,475, the British government said.

The seven-day average of COVID-19 deaths has also risen over that period, going from seven on Sept. 1 to 364 on Nov. 6, according to the data. On Nov. 6, the nation recorded 367 new deaths, the highest number of fatalities since May.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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omersukrugoksu/iStockBy AICHA EL HAMMAR CASTANO and IVAN PEREIRA, ABC News

(LIMA, Peru) -- Peru's interim president, Manuel Merino, announced in a televised address Sunday that he is stepping down just six days after his inauguration. The announcement came after protests demanding his removal turned violent.

Peruvians have taken to the streets since former Peruvian President Martín Vizcarra, who was popular among constituents, stepped down from his position last week once the country's Congress voted to impeach him.

Merino called for peace in his speech and said he would work for a smooth transition to his successor.

The Peruvian Congress voted 105-19 to remove Vizcarra from office, contending he mismanaged the country's coronavirus cases and accepted bribes from companies who received government contracts. Vizcarra has denied the allegations of corruption.

Since the pandemic began, Peru at one point had the world's highest per-capita COVID-19 mortality rate. As of Sunday, there were more than 932,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 35,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The members of congress cited an article in Peru's constitution to declare the presidency "vacant." Merino, the head of the Congress of Peru, was appointed interim president following Vizcarra's departure on Nov. 10.

Protesters called the situation a "parliamentary constitutional coup," as they were shocked by Vizcarra's departure. Thousands have taken part in the demonstrations and have clashed with the police.

Those demonstrations turned fatal this weekend.

Two protesters were killed and at least 92 were injured Saturday, a spokesperson from Peru's Ministry of Health told ABC News. The human rights group Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos (CNDDHH) reports more than 20 protesters are missing.

Peruvian officials did not immediately name Merino's successor as of Sunday afternoon.

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CGinspiration/iStockBY: SOMAYEH MALEKIAN, ABC NEWS

(WASHINGTON) -- Perhaps no other country will be as directly affected by the outcome of the U.S. election as Iran.

As the U.S. undergoes a bumpy transition of power between President-elect Joe Biden and a recalcitrant President Donald Trump who is refusing to concede the election and continues pushing a narrative of baseless election fraud accusations, Iranian political experts and observers are taking a watch and wait stance for now -- as they ponder the best path forward to negotiate easing sanctions that have strangled Iran's economy.

The Trump administration instituted a "maximum pressure" policy against Iran amid increasing tensions between the two countries after the administration accused Iran of launching nearly a dozen cruise missiles and over 20 drones from its territory in an attack on a key Saudi oil facility in September.

The Trump administration also withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal, officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, in May 2018, reimposing sanctions that encompassed Iran's oil industry.

With oil being Iran's major source of revenue, strict sanctions excluded the country from related international markets and severely damaged its already ailing economy with high inflation and dramatic devaluation of the rial -- the Islamic Republic's currency.

Some experts say there is no other way for the U.S. and Iran to repair relations but to negotiate and make up.

However, when it comes to negotiating with America, Iran's conservative and moderate parties take different approaches.

President Hassan Rouhani, who is known to be affiliated with the moderate side of Iran's political spectrum, expressed hope that President-elect Biden would lift sanctions on Iran and return to the JCPOA.

"We feel that the atmosphere is prepared for closer relations and better interaction with all friendly countries," President Rouhani said in the weekly government session on Wednesday, the Islamic Republic News Agency reported. "The man whose term is about to end would call the JCPOA the worst agreement ever which he wanted to terminate … The new man has said … that he wants to return to the JCPOA," he added.

Indirectly addressing his conservative rivals, Rouhani also said that "no one should waste the opportunity to lift sanctions."

Rouhani's remarks after the U.S. election have provoked backlash from Iran's conservatives who are against negotiating with the White House no matter which American political party is at the helm.

"Controlling inflation and resolving many of the country's problems have nothing to do with negotiation or sanctions," Iranian conservative Kayhan Daily wrote in a political editorial on Thursday.

The editorial described the Rouhani administration's hope to negotiate with Biden's government as a "wasteland of tact and mirage of negotiation."

However, some experts believe that even Iran's conservatives would welcome an end to sanctions and a move toward easing the relationship with the U.S.

Mehdi Motaharnia, a political expert, told ABC News that while the Trump administration wanted "to curb Iran's behavior and political activities," he believes Iranian conservatives still "welcome renegotiation."

Adding to the political rhetoric among Iran's two main parties on how to approach a new U.S. administration, is the country's own upcoming presidential election which will be held in about six months.

However, Motaharnia said it does not matter which party takes the seat in Iran's 2021 election.

"It does not make much of a difference who leads the government in Iran, as this institution is not the core of the state here, but an executive power who runs bureaucratic affairs," Motaharnia added, implying that the major foreign policy decisions are made by the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Regardless of all assumptions about the possibility of Biden's more lenient policy toward Iran, Motaharnia does not think the president-elect will make a radical change in America's stance on Iran.

"It is true that the problem of the two countries has turned 'nuclearized.' But, besides the nuclear issue, Iran's missile program and its support of the so-called terrorist groups, the two countries need to discuss the core problem between them," Motaharnia said.

To him, this "core" issue started since the takeover of the American embassy after the Islamic Revolution 42 years ago.

"The two countries need to start from agreeing on what they mean by 'negotiation'... Iran's policy, as the Supreme Leader has said, is 'no negotiation, no war,' and that of the U.S. is 'either negotiation, or war,'" Motaharnia said.

Motaharnia also said the U.S. needs Iran on its side if it wants to have an upper hand in the "new global order."

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